Albanian Rules of the Road
I could write about the Albanian leg of our Balkan Bonanza Road Trip all month. It’s as wild and weird and wonderful as everyone told us it would be. Right after crossing the Montenegro-Albania border, we realized that the (already flexible) driving guidelines in the Balkans did not apply. It took us a while to figure things out, but eventually we devised three handy rules for surviving Albanian roads.
Rule #1: Animals rule.
Just as we entered Albania we swerved to avoid a group of wild goats. They were unimpressed by our car’s size, speed, or ability to make them into tasty goat burgers. Since we were in the countryside, we figured animals are used to having the right of way. Little did we know that horses and donkeys in the capital city of Tirana that felt the same way, or that we’d find cows forming an adopt-a-highway group. When in doubt, brake for animals—it gives you time to admire the cool scenery.
Rule #2: Road rules need not apply, as there are no rules…and sometimes no roads.
The Shkodra (Montenegro) border crossing to Tirana was rough. Literally, rough. A long stretch of the North-South highway is transitioning to paved road. I thought potholes only happened to asphalt; I was wrong. To complicate matters, there are no reflective signs to keep drivers on the right path. Instead, small boulders help keep drivers off graded roads.
This was considered a decent road. Addendum to Rule #2: if an Albanian tells you a road is “ok,” it means you can get through it. If a road is “bad,” do not attempt it in anything but a Hummer. Despite the crazy driving, it all seems to work pretty well…unless you’re this guy.
Rule #3: Even if there are rules, it’s perfectly acceptable to make up your own.
Driving in Albania is a combination of Cannonball Run, Days of Thunder and Dude, Where’s My Car? Albanians have only been driving for about twenty years, when the Hoxna isolationist regime lifted. The traffic code is less than ten years old. All of this has led to a certain…creativity in Albanian driving. Drivers ask themselves, Why leave those large pedestrian paths alone? Why not make a two-lane highway a three-lane highway? Just roll with it. Preferably at slow speeds.
This attitude doesn’t only apply to the road. Trademark rules? Nema probelma in Albania, according to fried chicken joint AFC. That’s Albanian Fried Chicken. Naturally.
The Colonel would be most displeased.
Driving in Albania is not for the faint of heart, but it did allow us to see a part of Europe that’s largely unexplored. We had a great time, met wonderful people, and emerged with a miraculously unscathed car. I’ll be writing about our Albanian adventures all week, so stay tuned.